Three Imaginary Girls

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Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard that Vermont Governor and one-time Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean has been elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee. I've been looking at all the news articles about his winning the nomination, and keep seeing these sorts of phrases: "Screamin' Dean." "Infamous Iowa scream." "High-flying presidential bid collapsed in disarray one year ago."

While I wasn't in at the ground level of Dean activism, I did caucus for him in Washington state. I completely admire the way he inspired hope, organized the masses, and challenged both the Republican opposition as well as John Kerry's campaign to take on important issues.

What amazes me about the Dean sitch is that he was invalided by our press with one sound bite: a simple cheer of victory that echoed around the world and negated the year+ worth of campaign work and grassroots activism he had completed and inspired.

What's even more amazing is that I've heard from Democratic activists who were in the room for that speech, and according to them, the cheer wasn't even extraordinary, given the ambient noise level in the room. Dean was rallying a crowd of cheering campaigners, the sound level was deafening, and he was yelling – into a mouthpiece mic'ed only for him. The news media took the sound byte – which of course sounded outrageously boisterous and unruly without the cheers of the crowd audible in the background – and effective destroyed his presidential bid.

What makes this more amazing is how many incredibly stupid Bush quotes have been captured by microphones that have never been broadcast like the infamous yowl. My favorite example: remember during the second Presidential debate, during a discussion about small businesses and taxes, when Kerry claimed that Bush had received $84 from a timber company that he partially owned? When it was Bush's time to talk, he snickered, "I own a timber company? That's news to me!" He then proceeded to chuckle and stare stupidly at the audience for a moment, before he quipped, "Wanna buy some wood?"

I realize I don't need to convince this audience that Bush is an idiot. What's interesting is that Kerry was completely right: Bush had earned exactly that much money under his own definitions of small business ownership. So why didn't the media jump all over that idiot quote, or one of several zillion others Bush has made over the past 4+ years? How could a man like Howard Dean be completely negated by one yell, when Bush, who has entire websites and books dedicated to the stupid things he says, get re-elected?

{Amusing interlude: here are a couple of my favorites GWB said while campaigning for re-election (source)}

** "Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country."

** "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

Of course, the answer is: our mainstream media doesn't challenge our President. My hunch is, the Republicans realized fighting Howard Dean would be more of a challenge, as he didn't have a voting record in the Senate, and was a vocal opponent of the war. They couldn't negate him as a flip-flopper, so they labeled him as unstable, as erratic – for one rallying cry.

And it worked – for awhile. And clearly this man – a doctor, governor, and grass-roots leader – isn't some sort of screaming Dean. I'm proud that the Democrats have elected a unifier, a man with outspoken opinions and a powerful use of language. I'm excited to see what he has in store – and when he shouts his next rebel yell, I expect to shout back, "More! More! More!"

{This article originally appeared in igDana's weekly Music for America column "A Rush and a Push." Check out the column and feel free to comment on their message boards here.}